Glad we got the CyHawk monkey off our back last week. Being 2-0 never felt so good... but 3-0 for the first time in a decade? That, yes, THAT, is what was on Iowa State’s mind as the Ohio Bobcats came into town. Could the Cyclones avoid the CyHawk hangover? Let’s take a look:
What Went Wrong
Through the first two games, I was very impressed with the whole group of running backs that Iowa State has put together. Even while the O-line struggled at times with getting to the second level, Jirehl Brock and the rest of the guys made people miss and made the most of each carry. That was much less the case this past Saturday against the Bobcats.
Each running back had their “breakout” carry. Brock with a 61-yard spurt, Silas had a nice 24-yard sprint, and Sanders/Dekkers also both found long carries of 10 yards. With the exception of those four carries (the Cyclones ran the ball 32 times), the Cyclones managed a measly 58 yards on 28 carries. Averaging just over two yards per carry in this offense feels unacceptably low. Sure, they’ve shown they can break the big play, but the consistency will have to improve as we head into conference play.
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Iowa State’s kickoff coverage was sub-optimal on Saturday
Can we just kick it to the end zone again? Remember when we did that a couple of times last year? Yeah... those were the days...
What Went Right
Bout damn time, Ant. Bout damn time.
Congrats, #1. Hopefully not the last.
Speaking of “bout damn time,” welcome back to the sack stat sheet, Will McDonald. As Matt Campbell emphasized in the post-game presser, Will has played quite well this year, despite not having the numbers. That said, it was time he got himself another step closer to history. Joining him in the sack department on Saturday were O’Rien Vance, Miles Mendeszoon, and Joey Peterson. Four sacks on the day, which brings the total of the season up to.... five. Five sacks. Well, better late than never for the pass rush. Glad to see the guys up front finding some momentum and finding their way into the backfield more and more as the season has gone on.
Ohio’s offense came into the game having not turned the ball over yet in the season. Iowa State’s defense made sure they left Ames with more than enough to make up for the previous two weeks. On top of the Anthony Johnson interception mentioned previously, linebacker Colby Reeder picked up his second interception in as many weeks. On a fourth-down play, Reeder jumped a route and outran Ohio wide receiver Tyler Walton before finally getting run down at the Ohio 13 yard line. Iowa State would score two plays later.
It wasn’t just the interceptions, though, as the Cyclones forced a pair of Bobcat fumbles on sacks, recovering both of them. MJ Anderson continued his strong start recovering the first Bobcat fumble and setting up the Cyclones at 1st and goal. The second recovery was scooped up by Cyclone sophomore linebacker Hunter Zenzen playing in (I believe) just his second game with the team (UNLV in 2021.) Great to see some new faces on the field making big plays, especially on a defense that lost some major pieces from last year.
If there’s been one thing missing from Jon Heacock’s defense from the last 5 years, it’s been taking advantage of “turnover-worthy plays” from opposing teams. And by that, I mean dropping interceptions and being unable to find the ball when it's on the ground. This year, at least through three games, the defense has been MUCH improved in that category. Eight takeaways already compared to the fifteen the defense had in 2021. Those extra possessions could mean the difference in these one-score games we’re all expecting to see in the Big 12... possibly starting with Baylor this Saturday in Ames.